Movie Roundup September 2021

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As well as trying to clear out a backlog on my Amazon prime watchlist (see 7 Amazon Original Movies for my starting point) and watching these movies – Midpoint movie roundup – September 2021 – I watched far too much of the Corridor Crew on YouTube and also a bunch of other movies (all but one on Amazon Prime). So here’s the rest of them, and there may be some minor spoilers but nothing you couldn’t guess from the trailers.

Life (2017) is essentially Alien in the International Space Station. Take the face-hugger and make it even more vicious, intelligent and like a psychotic octopus/flower hybrid and you’ve basically got the gist. It’s really just a question of how and in what order the occupants of the ill-fated space station are going to get to their final destination (i.e. very very dead). It’s more horror than sci-fi with some unmistakeable Hollywood Physics included and with a lot owed to the excellent Gravity in terms of the look and feel of the station and orbital space.

The cast ticks a lot of boxes in terms of filling horror movie tropes and it’s a shame that everyone’s favourite was-ass Ryan Reynolds doesn’t last as long as some of the others. Jake Gyllenhall provides the most nuanced performance as a jaded astronaut who really doesn’t want to finish his stint in the station and return to Earth. However, the exposition-beleaguered script is at times laughable and at times got me comparing it to the quite similar but woefully bad The Cloverfield Paradox. Top marks for gruesome horror, points taken off for the dialogue.

Gemini Man (2019) – the only film in this list on Netflix – is an action film starring two different versions of Will Smith in a big fight. I initially thought the effects looked janky, but maybe I’d seen an older trailer for the film where the effects weren’t as finessed as the final product. Unless my spectacles were in serious need of a clean, I thought the effects were pretty darned good. Here was the Prince of Bel Air looking as Fresh as a daisy and going to toe to toe with ‘Ah hell no!’ action man Smith.

There’s only one bit where the young Will Smith looks a bit dodgy and unfortunately it’s right at the end of the film so it kind of stays with you once the credits role, but if you can ignore that one scene the de-aging effects are really very well done. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is fast becoming a favourite of mine, does a good job as the gun-toting sidekick and Clive Owen is well… just Clive Owen… perhaps Guy Pierce wasn’t available that day to play the bad guy.

Chaos Walking (2021) is directed by Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman, but is rather less high-octane than that movie, but perhaps no less ‘high concept’ in terms of its sci-fi element. The premise is that on a colony planet the thoughts of the men can be heard and seen, whereas the women’s thoughts cannot (why the difference is never explained). You’d expect that to cause problems and it certainly does.

Tom Holland plays Todd a young farmer type who wants to break away from the strict rule of the mayor of his town (Mads Mikkelsen) who ends up running off with a second-wave colonist (Daisy Ridley) who crash lands nearby. At times the film seems like an episodic Netflix sci-fi show that’s been crushed into a 1h 49min film, with little time to really get into the characters before another action beat is required to keep the viewer awake. The effects are nice, especially the big grounded spaceship at the end (reminiscent of the wrecks in the game Horizon Zero Dawn) but I felt like the story was a bit lightweight.

Shadow in the Cloud (2020) is an Amazon Exclusive which takes the classic “there’s something on he wing!” episode of The Twilight Zone and sets it in a WWII B-17 bomber called The Fool’s Errand with an intense performance from Chloe Grace Moretz as Maude a female pilot on a secret mission. Moretz spends most of her time inside the gun bubble on the underside of the bomber speaking to the all-male crew on the intercom system.

What follows is an hilariously enjoyable film that has no holes barred. If Maude isn’t hanging off the underside of the plane as it flies along being attacked by Japanese fighter planes, she is having a fist fight with the gremlin. The effects are dodgy throughout – there’s no real sense that the aircraft is anywhere but in a green-screen sound stage – but the creature design is good and frankly if your not at least whispering ‘girl power’ by the end of the film then you’ve missed the point. I think this is destined to become a cult-classic like Snakes on a Plane and deservedly so.

I Care A Lot (2020) is an Amazon Original in which Rosamund Pike plays legal guardian Marla Grayson manipulating the care system to make as much money out of her elderly wards as she can before they die. Pike won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture for her deliciously nasty performance.

Peter Dinklage plays Roman Lunyov the gangster son of Grayson’s latest victim played very nicely by Dianne Wiest, and it is the battle between the criminals Lunyov and Grayson which forms the meat of the film. I was feeling very uncomfortable toward the end of the film that Grayson’s arc was one of a criminal doing bad things and just getting worse and profiting from it, however she does get her just desserts in the end.

Peninsula (2020) is prefixed ‘Train to Busan Presents’ and so it’s clear you should expect another high-octane zombie movie. The premise is much like that of Army of the Dead in which a crew go in to get some money from the zombie infested area. In this case it’s Korea not Las Vegas, it’s only four people who aren’t as kick-ass as in Army and it’s not a vault in a casino but simply a delivery truck full of bags of money.

The practical zombie effects and the computer graphics are generally okay, but some of the car chase sequences did feel like cut scenes from a PS4 game – the physics was a bit whack in places e.g. a fully-loaded range rover type vehicle doing 0 to 60 in about 2 seconds. The film is essentially a redemptive story for the soldier character who has to overcome his tendency to think too logically and not with his heart to rescue a family from the zombie infested peninsula. There is some help from a deus ex machina at the end, but it’s been clearly flagged earlier in proceedings, so it doesn’t feel too much of a cop out.

Escape from Pretoria (2020) is an Amazon Original and certainly the most atmospheric and tense movie in this post. Based on the true story of political prisoners held in South African prison during apartheid, it stars Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber (who I’ve only seen as a young veteran in The Punisher Netflix show) and Mark Leonard Winter (who was new to me). Their performances are great despite some wavering accents and there’s also a nice role for Ian Hart as Denis Goldberg who prefers to protest by staying locked up and not joining the escape.

There were times during this film where I was literally on the edge of my seat and really cheering the prisoners’ efforts on. Some viewers might feel that the pace of the film is a bit slow around the middle, but I thought it was fine – there has to be some part of the film that feels claustrophobic and makes you want to get to the end where they will finally get out. Looking at the other movies on this post I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the film I would recommend above the others, perhaps closely followed by Gemini Man.

An American Werewolf in Paris (1997) is a kind of sequel to An American Werewolf in London but shares none of the characters from the original 1981 John Landis film. The premise is more or less the same though with Andy (John Everett Scott) an unsuspecting American tourist being bitten by a werewolf and changing into one himself and falling in love with a woman, Serefine (Julie Delpy). However in this case the woman is also a lycanthrope, and she is involved in trying to find a cure for her condition.

The effects look dated, but aren’t as bad as I expected, and while the story isn’t as good as I remembered from seeing it at the cinema all those years ago (perhaps I was influenced by the unexpected full-frontal nudity), it’s still enjoyable and contains a certain level of humour to counterbalance the horror elements.

Last and certainly least, The Doorman (2020) sees Ruby Rose taking on the role of ‘girl with gun’ when a group of art thieves led by Jean Reno (Leon) invade the apartment block where she is working the titular role. The film does nothing to add to the genre and if you’re expecting to see Rose kick some ass then prepare to be disappointed as all the fight scenes look like they were patched together from single cuts by the editor or were performed by her stunt double. Unlike, say, Atomic Blonde there’s no real genuine kick-assery on show.

If Rose did do some of her own action scenes in long takes, then the filmmakers have done as lousy a job with the editing as they have done with writing the dialogue. Unless you are a huge Ruby Rose fan, I wouldn’t bother watching this film.

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